‘Strange Lenses’ Art Project Captures Cool Idea! Award

Call it digital manufacturing meets art.

Proto Labs’ latest Cool Idea! Award grant helped artist and engineer Robb Godshaw create the art installation “Strange Lenses.”

The project uses injection-molded optical liquid silicone rubber (LSR) lenses—designed by Godshaw and manufactured by Proto Labs—to create geometric distortions of people’s faces (similar to funhouse mirrors) when viewed from the other side. At the same time, the lenses created connections between strangers when they viewed each other through these distortions at the Strange Lenses art installation.

Photos Courtesy: Strange Lenses

Strange Lenses was a part of The Market Street Prototyping Festival, which occurred earlier this month in San Francisco, and will remain on display on the streets of San Francisco for two years as part of a public-art installation.

The Proto Labs award allowed Godshaw, who is also an Artist in Residence at Autodesk’s Pier 9 in San Francisco, to create the LSR lenses quickly, efficiently, and in time for the prototyping festival.

“I had tried 3D printing some lenses with other manufacturers, but the optical quality just wasn’t there,” Godshaw said. “When I met Proto Labs, I was blown away by its optical LSR—especially the speed and clarity.”

In addition, Godshaw said, “Optical LSR is robust and durable. You can’t scratch it, crack it, or melt it, so it’s perfect for my installation and for the millions of people who will interact with it over the next two years.”


IoT-Enabled Water-Management System Wins Cool Idea! Award

The developers of AgPulse, a water-management system that uses wireless technology and the internet of things to optimize watering and irrigation for farms, have been presented with the latest Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award, a service grant given to innovative companies.

This AgPulse sprinkler control system is set up in a vineyard. Photo Courtesy: Mist Labs/AgPulse

AgPulse, developed by California-based Mist Labs, Inc., uses a set of wireless soil sensors to continuously monitor and optimize farm, vineyard or orchard irrigation, though it can also be used for backyards and gardens.

Mist Labs used the Cool Idea! Award grant from Proto Labs to manufacture its custom-designed components that were injection molded using high-strength polycarbonate in order to withstand the conditions of an agricultural environment.

“Water is a valuable commodity,” says Proto Labs founder Larry Lukis. “This product will help conserve this important natural resource and help all of us, whether we’re large-scale farmers or backyard gardeners, to use water more efficiently.”




Microscope ‘Game-Changer’ Garners Cool Idea! Award

The developers of a hybrid microscope — called the Revolve — which merges two microscopes into one, and replaces conventional eyepieces with an iPad, have been presented with the latest Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award.

In life sciences research, two types of microscopes are used — upright (for viewing glass slides) and inverted (for live samples in dishes). As a result, industry sources estimate that nearly 75 percent of labs today own both. The Revolve, developed by San Diego-based Echo Laboratories, is a hybrid microscope that transforms between these two configurations, eliminating the need to purchase two separate instruments. This frees up valuable lab space and offers cost savings, given that the Revolve costs about the same price as a traditional, research-grade microscope. Continue reading

It’s Gaming System Meets Med Device for Latest Cool Idea! Award

Recovering from respiratory ailments such as pneumonia is not exactly fun and games. A new, innovative respiratory therapy system, however, which helps patients with respiratory therapy, is designed to be exactly that — a fun game.

Memphis-based Compliant Games, which has developed a respiratory therapy system that uses video games as part of the system, and helps pediatric and nursing home patients comply with respiratory therapy requirements, has been presented with the latest Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award.

Compliant Games is “channeling the healing power of children’s video games,” say the developers, with a system that improves adherence to respiratory therapies by patients. The system transforms common respiratory therapy tools into low-cost telemetry (wireless transmission and monitoring) instruments for doctors and their patients.

How does it work? The patient watches and follows along with a video game exercise on an iPad or other computer tablet. When prompted, the patient breathes through an air tube that wirelessly interacts with the game. Active, in-game feedback reinforces correct technique for the patient.

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Wearable Thermoelectric Bracelet Wins Cool Idea! Award

The latest Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award winner is literally cool … and hot, too, for that matter.

This exploded view shows how Wristify comes together, including parts that were manufactured by Proto Labs.

Wristify is a thermoelectric wearable device that actively cools or heats one’s skin for comfort by sending hot or cold pulses to a patch of skin on the wrist dozens of times per minute.

Wristify’s developers, Cambridge, Mass.-based Embr Labs, call the product a “stylish bracelet” that helps keep you cool or warm, similar to what happens when you dip your toes in a cold lake on a hot, sunny day, or when you wrap your hands around a hot cup of tea on a cold night.

Sam Shames, one of the co-founders of Embr Labs, says developers are using the Cool Idea! Award manufacturing grant for various custom prototype parts from Proto Labs such as CNC-machined aluminum enclosures and Santoprene (rubber-like) bottom components.

This is how the finished product may look.

“The prototypes we have built out from Proto Labs’ manufactured parts have been the best prototypes used to date,” Shames says. “The parts have been greatly beneficial in the prototype phase and we’ve been really pleased with the general aesthetic and design, which have a sleek look and feel to them. Plus, the functionality of these parts has been great.” Read our recent press release here.